PLASTIC KILLS! Horror Short Film Contest

Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, and Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) present “PLASTIC KILLS!”—a horror short film competition designed to highlight the terrors of plastic pollution and its toxic effects on our bodies, our children, our pets, and our planet.

Thank you to everyone who participated and voted. The winners have been chosen!!
Grand Prize Winner: Blastic
Fan Vote Winners: No Escape from that Within
Runners-up: Throwaway Living, Just One Word, Single Use, and Bottled

Click WATCH NOW below to view the winning films and all fifteen finalists.
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A Good Intention Gone Horribly Wrong

Filmmaker: Jen Everett

Bailey is 13 and currently living with her family on a sailboat exploring the Caribbean. She loves to explore, see new places, make friendship bracelets and play the violin.

Inspiration: I was motivated to create this film after seeing the amounts of ocean plastic pollution that washes up on shore in so many places. I love a good beach clean up and Halloween, so this was a fun project.


Filmmakers: Adam Wademan , Karola Sanchez, Aaron Beal

Adam Wademan is a writer, director, and actor originally from Nebraska. He had his debut as an actor and writer on the Omaha regional NBC comedy sketch TV show "Omaha Live!" from 2014 to 2015. "Blastic" is his fourth independent film project since 2018.

Karola Sanchez a Spanish-American photographer and director of photography, started her career as an actress. She now teaches filmmaking to students at LAUSD schools throughout Los Angeles with Creating Creators.

Aaron Beal is an actor and writer from Indiana who dreams of a world without microplastics.

Inspiration: I wanted to make "Blastic" in order to bring awareness to the catastrophic plastic pollution that has touched every part of the planet, leaving no one to spare, not even
Dracula. We need entertainment that inspires policy change and regulation of anything made of plastic that includes the health of all life on earth.


Filmmaker: Mike Canale

Mike is infatuated with the process of filmmaking, from content development and script writing, to shooting, lighting, directing, and editing. His passion and curiosity for storytelling drives him to develop a thorough understanding of the filmmaking process, in order to create impactful and sometimes shocking experiences. He specializes in writing interpersonal conflict horror and dark comedy with themes such as family, love, and self-identity. Many of his works are allegories taken from his own life, as he explores his own fears and anxieties.

Inspiration: I thought a classic horror setup and kill would be concise enough to tell the story of mother nature seeking revenge. I definitely tried to channel my inner James Wan along with early 2000's horrors like The Ring and The Grudge.


Filmmaker: Brayden Roberge

Brayden is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's film program. He loves cameras, elevator music, and making weird comedy shorts with his best friends.

Inspiration: BOTTLED is a mixture of our group's backgrounds in surreal films and sketch comedy. We decided to make something for this contest inside an IHOP at 9am on Thursday, and by 11pm on Friday, we had a finished film. Because what else would we do on a Thursday night? Sleep? No thanks.

Executive Incision

Filmmaker: Ethan Buriel (he/him) & Cameron Lee (he/him)

Ethan Buriel is a sophomore undergraduate at the University of Southern California, pursuing a B.S. in Pharmacology & Drug Development. Although he orients himself to have a career in the STEM field, Ethan loves to spend his time walking around with his camera, hoping to keep a record of memories from his daily life. Ever since he moved in from the Bay Area, Ethan had the lovely opportunity to meet many creative individuals in which he worked on film projects and photoshoots with them. Currently, he hopes to continue taking pictures of artists at concert venues and eventually DP on film sets. Ultimately, Ethan would like to take this skill set and create meaningful media that could foster productive conversation. Otherwise, catch Ethan hopping to different cafes, thrifting, or even in the volleyball courts.
Cameron Lee is a second year business administration student at the University of Southern California's (USC) Marshall School of Business. Cameron found his passion for film through his experience in photography and was inspired by the amazing filmmakers at USC. From learning about the different roles in a film crew to the latest and greatest lighting gear, Cameron's curiosity is endless. Growing up in Las Vegas, he has always loved the entertainment industry and is thrilled to see how the industry evolves throughout his career journey. Outside of photography, Cameron loves to aquascape new fish tanks, cook his favorite Chinese dishes, and banter with his friends over a game of poker.

Inspiration: Jordan Peele's approach in which the audience may overlook some small details until the ending of the film and be like "Ohhhh that's why he did that ' has always been interesting to hear. Personally, horror isn't Buriel's cup of tea but trying to have those elements sprinkled in each scene really helped build the antagonist's background, making it easier to structure the narrative around that.

Just One Word

Filmmaker: Craig Wyrick-Solari (he/him/his)

Laurel Canyon filmmaker Craig Wyrick-Solari graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Film & Broadcasting and headed west as a young man. Gradually working his way up to be a Producer, UPM, and Director on network, cable, and streaming television comedies, some of his shows include the recent season of Mad About You, Pretty Freekin Scary, Hood Adjacent With James Davis, The Wayans Bros., That’s My Bush!, The Closer, Austin & Ally, and many more. In between series he continues to create his own short film projects, writing, directing, shooting, editing and mixing them in his Laurel Canyon workshop.

Inspiration: A standard convention in many horror films, the “skeptic” is the character who always doubts the warnings of the other characters about the dangers lurking in the shadows or the monsters towering over our cities. I wanted to twist this convention in a humorous way to poke fun at the many “skeptics” who doubt the harm that plastics are inflicting on our world. The title is inspired by the famous phrase from The Graduate – “Just one word. Plastics.”

Karma at the Beach

Filmmaker : Plastic Menace

Info to be posted.

Night of the Alive Plastic

Filmmaker: Anastasia Morozova (she/her)

I started shooting short films in 2020. With a background in environmental education and almost 10 years of experience in the ecological field, working with various ecological organizations, I found that shooting videos has become my beloved hobby. I have always enjoyed watching movies and coming up with my own stories. However, I noticed that there are only a few interesting videos about the environment on social media. This realization led me to explore this field for my creative endeavors.

My main genre is comedy. I have created skits about topics such as greenwashing, microplastics, climate anxiety, balloons, and more. Although horror is a new experience for me, I always strive to try something different. One of my dreams is to create a movie about protests against landfills in Russia.

Inspiration: I was in a store and observed how people were taking a large number of single-use plastic bags for fruits and vegetables. It made me realize the abundance of plastic and how we are gradually becoming a plastic society. This realization inspired the creation of this short movie.

No Escape from That Within

Filmmakers: Nathaniel Wisham , Tobin Carter, Charles Baxter (he/him/his)

Tobin Carter (He/Him)-Producer-Tobin Carter started his career in film at seven years old, when he was signed by his first talent agency and booked an international commercial. He has since appeared in commercials, short films, and TV show such as "Children's Hospital" and "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien". Having grown up raising and rescuing various species of animals, he developed a passion and appreciation for the environment at a young age. He is currently writing a novel he hopes to get published, as well as completed a poetry collection that will be released soon! He is studying film at the University of California, Berkeley, and is very grateful for this opportunity.

Nathaniel Wisham (He/Him)-Director, Writer, Editor- Nathaniel Wisham is a Film Student at UC Berkeley. He comes to film with a passionate love for the horror genre and a love for conservation and the natural world. Coming from Sacramento, and without a background in film production prior to becoming involved with production at Berkeley, his past production projects have all been made within production courses at UC Berkeley, up until No Escape From That Within. His last work before it, The Worst That Could Happen was a comedy horror short about friendship, red flags, and vampires. He came to this project excited to finally make an attempt at creating a “green” horror piece, as his love for the horror genre stems in large part from its ability to make intangible issues and threats tangible to unsettling effects.

Charles Baxter-Director of Photography- Charles recently graduated from UC Berkeley’s film and media department with Honors. He likes making films with his friends. His last piece, Ant Farm, was a comedy about office work.

Inspiration: I find horror to be most effective on a personal level, and regardless of how big an issue plastic pollution is, I feel that the most poignant fact for a lot of people is the amount of plastic in our bodies. I figured that embodying the slow poisoning of our bodies by the very things we frequently use to feed ourselves would work especially well as a hard to spot, slowly encroaching creature, as well as with lots and lots of blood.


Filmmaker: Mikey Reid (he/him)

Mikey Reid is an actor, comedy writer, and filmmaker who is deeply concerned about mitigating his PMI (Plastic Mass Index). His comedy satirizes the multitude of intersecting crises that we face as a society, as well as the infinitude of personal crises that he anxiously invents on a daily basis. He writes pilots, sketch comedy, and tweets he doesn’t want his mother to see, in addition to producing his own shorts.

You may recognize him from shows like Nickelodeon’s Victorious, Modern Family, and Workaholics, or films like Camp Cold Brook and The Funhouse Massacre. His sketch web series "The Mikey Reid Show" is slated to release on YouTube next spring.

Inspiration: My motivation for the film was to draw attention to the ways in which micro plastics are affecting our planet, our ecosystems and our bodies. I am a staunch believer in ending the use of plastics and I want my work to effectively convey my values in a comedic yet thoughtful way.

Single Use

Filmmaker: Stephen Parkhurst (he/him/his)

Stephen Parkhurst is a writer and director of short films and documentaries with a career in digital media producing series and videos for Business Insider, CNBC, Conde Nast, Facebook, and others. Meanwhile, he has directed multiple award-winning short films with a focus on horror, sci-fi, and comedy.

Inspiration: I live in New York City where single-use bags were officially banned several years ago. And yet, they still turn up everywhere! I've often considered the insidiousness of single-use bags: they seem so harmless and disposable, but the truth is that they'll outlive us all as they suffocate the planet. What better inspiration for a horror villain could there be?

Stop the Terrors of Plastic

Filmmaker: Jack Ryan Dalton (he/him/his)

Jack, The Kid Conservationist, is an award-winning thirteen-year-old animal activist, author, public speaker, educational YouTuber, and fundraiser whose goal is to get orangutans off the endangered species list and to protect our environment through the power of education and inspiration. He is from Manchester, New Hampshire and attends the Groton School in Massachusetts. Jack has raised over $20,000 for education, orangutan rehabilitation and replanting the rainforest. He has presented to over 6,000 people around the globe, and has over 240,000 views on his Kid Conservationist YouTube channel. In addition, Jack wrote a children’s book to spread awareness of orangutans and deforestation, and for every book bought a tree is planted in the Indonesian rainforest. To date, 3,000 books have been sold or donated, and over 3,000 trees have been planted. Jack is the Youth Ambassador for four international organizations working to educate about environmental issues such as plastics, orangutans, deforestation and more. In his free time, Jack enjoys skiing, hiking, traveling, reading, video editing, hanging out with friends and family, and anything to do with animals.

Inspiration: Plastic pollution is a big issue in our world, and I am passionate about educating people on the harmful effects of plastics. I decided to make this video to highlight what we all can do each and every day, in a fun, yet educational way, similar to my successful 10 Facts in 10 Seconds video series on my YouTube channel, Kid Conservationist.

The Dumpster Dive

Filmmaker: Laura Asherman (she/her/hers)

Laura Asherman is an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her recent work explores the Anthropocene through examining human-animal relationships. She is interested in creating
hybrid documentary, employing stop-motion animation and elements of absurdity to address pressing social issues. In 2023, Laura earned an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University. Currently, she teaches film and serves as Director of Ethics and the Arts at Emory University.

Inspiration: This concept arose from an innate need to grapple with the planet’s plastic dilemma while pushing the limits of “documentary.” I draw inspiration from environmental documentaries that favor humor over guilt and don’t explicitly offer solutions. In making this film, I set out to create a piece that would disarm audiences, making them reflect without even realizing.

The Plastic Report

Filmmakers: Jason A. Kessler and Eli M. Zipser (he/him)

Jason and Eli are a stepdad/stepson duo who’ve been making silly movies together since Eli was 5. Jason wrote and directed the award-winning short film Death by Script, he’s worked in TV writers’ rooms for HBO, CBS, and Apple, and his feature screenplay Escher appeared on the 2018 Black List. When Eli’s not making movies with Jason, he enjoys third grade, soccer, swimming, kung fu, camping, skiing, and playing with his little brother.

Inspiration: Jason and Eli were motivated to make this film to help educate people about the harms of plastic, so the world will still be around when Eli’s old enough to make films with his own children.

Throwaway Living

Filmmakers: Laura Malatos & Helen RY Sun (she/her)

Laura Malatos & Helen Sun are a writing-filmmaking duo with an appetite for overly ambitious characters and darkly comedic worlds. Despite being born 5,000 miles apart (in Seattle and literal Moscow, Russia), they came together at USC and have been ride-or-die roommates ever since. Alongside writing, they collaborate on social media ads, music videos, and narrative films – jobs that have brought them unhinged experiences, from transforming their apartment into an underground bunker to staging medieval fights in the California mountains. They are excited to keep exploring heightened worlds in their work and bring complex queer and female-driven narratives to the screen whilst having a laugh.

Inspiration: We pulled our inspiration from the very real post-war ads that intensely encouraged the waste of single-use plastic as the way of the future. Looking back, these colorful corporation-driven ads feel like a horrifying pivot to point to as the beginning of the overwhelming plastic pollution of today.